Warning: This Book Might Wreck Your Faith – A Book Review of ‘It’s Not What You Think’
Three years ago, spoken word artist Jeff Bethke made his mark on the world with his poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The video currently boasts over 30 million views, and has sparked conversation and controversy in Christian circles worldwide. Since then, He’s released countless other spoken word videos, and teaching videos which discuss and relate biblical content to modern life. And the world listened. He established a speaking platform relatively quickly, and toured from time to time, and even released a book about his poem that went on to be a New York Times Bestseller.
It’s Not What You Think is Bethke’s sophomore title, and it’s no disappointment. Just based on the title, I was curious. I’ve loved most of Jeff’s work since his debut, and have kept up with most of his work as the years have gone by. I couldn’t pass up the chance to read and review this book, especially because I think this message is one Christians need to hear. If you think you have Christianity figured out, give this book a read. This whole book addresses the most common, and most tragic misconceptions about Jesus, and His Kingdom. No matter where you land in the church, it’s sure to stir the pot and challenge what you’ve taken for granted in your faith.
It’s Not A Comfortable Read
Bethke starts off with a jab at the heart of our faith, and questions the legitimacy of many of our approaches to the bible. Do we try and make the bible about us, when it should be about God? Do we try and make the bible black and white, when it should be in full color? Are we guilty of changing the message of Jesus? At one point, He writes:
“At what point is a religion so unrecognizable to its founders that they’d call it a new religion entirely?”
Jeff wants us to see the Bible as more beautiful, divine, poetic, inspirational, and relatable than we ever have. God as more powerful, loving, real, just, and merciful than we’ve imagined. Humanity as more valued, and having greater potential than we’ve ever believed. And everything, every facet of life, is more meaningful than we’ve noticed. Every page will rock you in some way, and call you into contemplation, and into looking at Jesus afresh in your own life. It calls you into a less clean-cut faith that you can control, and into the messy reality of actually following Jesus, taking Him at His word.
No Rock Is Left Unturned
He leaves no rock unturned, unleashing paradigm after paradigm, blending rich modern scholarship with deep pastoral concern for the Church. That being said, this is a hard hitting title, and I wouldn’t recommend trying to read it quickly. I’m a fairly quick reader, and I had to pace myself over two months so I could digest the content. But it’s not a dense read. In fact, Jeff is a phenomenal wordsmith, and can make difficult theological concepts easy to digest. But this book is so loaded with so many discussions on different topics, you have to slowly move through each section, making sure you don’t miss out on something rich. I’d definitely recommend having a highlighter present.
At first, I was tempted to say this book seemed scattered, and misguided, until I put it down. What I realized is Jeff had a lot to say about everything. And that’s good. This book presents itself as more of a conversation starter than a closing remark, and I think he intended it to be that way. If at all possible, read it with a friend or small group, because you’ll all have plenty to talk about. Some of the other street team members and I hosted a small discussion group broadcast as we read through it, and I can’t even tell you how amazing it was. Each page hit us in different ways, and we all had epiphanies and take-aways that differed from each other. No one was left thinking “I already knew that.”
Overall, Bethke’s message resonated with me. I found myself challenged, convicted, refreshed, and alive after reading it. As a theology major, so many of the world-changing things I’ve learned in my studies were covered here in a way someone who isn’t a bible major can understand. That’s huge for me, because now I have a resource I can share with friends to show them Jesus in a deeper, more meaningful way. If you’ve ever thought there’s something to this Jesus guy, but wondered if we were missing something, this book will quench your thirsts. If you’ve been a Christian since you can remember, but you’re searching for something to deepen your faith, this book might help you start that journey. Because you may think you know Jesus, and have Christianity all figured out, but Bethke’s new book, It’s Not What You Think begs you to reconsider.
- Jefferson Bethke, It’s Not What You Think, Chapter 1 ↩